Turkey’s jailed presidential candidate Demirtaş appeals to public via phone call to his wife

Selahattin Demirtaş, the presidential candidate of Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been in pretrial detention since November 2016, addressed the Turkish people in a speech delivered from prison via a telephone call he made to his wife, Başak Demirtaş, on Wednesday.

“Good morning, everyone. I think this is the first time in the world that a presidential candidate will deliver a campaign speech from prison. I will address you from the social media accounts of the HDP at 11 a.m. today. See you later,” a message said from Demirtaş’s Twitter account, which was posted by his lawyers.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.

A video clip posted on the social media accounts of the HDP shows Başak Demirtaş in her house welcoming family members, including her husband’s parents.

Then, Demirtaş calls his wife and begins delivering his 10-minute-long campaign speech.

In his speech the former HDP co-chairperson said he has been unlawfully kept in prison for 20 months like a political hostage and that no fair trial is taking place for him and other jailed HDP officials because there is pressure on the courts to keep them in jail.

Demirtaş was the HDP’s co-chairperson when he was jailed on Nov. 4, 2016 along with several other party deputies as well as the party’s other co-chairperson, Figen Yüksekdağ.

The HDP presidential candidate said he is only one of the many people in Turkey who are being victimized by the lack of justice, adding that the country has been turned into a semi-open prison by the government.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed, while more than 150,000 others have been removed from state jobs in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

“They [the government] want to create a society of fear, an empire of fear, with this [jailing of people]. Yet, the job of the state is not to intimidate its citizens but to be their servant. But the anti-democratic practices over the past years have turned the people of Turkey into the unhappiest and most pessimistic people in the world… None of us deserves such an administration,” said Demirtaş.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have attracted widespread criticism for establishing one-man rule in the country, curbing free speech and destroying the separation of powers.

Demirtaş said the people of Turkey can build the democratic Turkey of the future and a new, happy and free life by working hand-in-hand.

If he is elected to the top state post, the HDP presidential candidate said his administration will not discriminate against people based on their identity, religious sect or gender and will make democracy and the rule of law fully dominate the state.

“We will fully benefit from our fertile soil, seas, historic and cultural heritage. We will not invest in concrete and unnecessary construction but in soil, effort, labor, production and science, and we will definitely defeat this poverty,” said Demirtaş.

The AKP government is also heavily criticized for destroying Turkey’s forests and green spaces and replacing them with concrete buildings and enriching pro-government companies by awarding them state tenders.

Demirtaş said every vote is crucial in the June 24 elections and has the potential to change many things.

“Demirtaş is you, not the one being kept in a cell in Edirne. Trust yourself. Honor yourself. Give your vote to yourself. Give one vote to the HDP and one vote to Demirtaş,” he said.

Many, including his rivals Muharrem İnce, Meral Akşener and Temel Karamollaoğlu, have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all presidential candidates.

However, a request for the release of Demirtaş from jail in the run-up to the June 24 presidential election was rejected by an Ankara high criminal court on May 21.

On May 29, Demirtaş’s lawyers applied to Turkey’s Constitutional Court for his release. Demirtaş ran against Erdoğan in the 2014 presidential election and lost. However, he has remained one of the most popular political figures in Turkey.

The full text of Demirtaş’ phone-rally speech is as follows:

“First of all, wherever my voice reaches I send my heartfelt greetings and love for everyone.

I have been illegally held here for almost 20 months as a political hostage with an unlawful, illegal decision. No fair trial has been conducted for me and my friends as of today. The principle of the rule of law has been openly violated by the political repression of all courts.

Nevertheless, every day while my hands are tied, government officials, without pause, continue the smear campaigns against me in the newspapers and on TV. While I can’t even exercise my right to respond, they continue their political ruse by making all kinds of fabricated allegations. But you are aware of all the facts.

I know and I see it. My situation is just an example. Today, the whole country, all our citizens, have become victims of injustice. Injustice is not just in the courthouses. From hospitals to universities, from fields to factories, from government offices to the streets: Every day, everywhere, we witness unfair practices against everyone.

Unfortunately, Turkey as a whole, has been transformed into a semi-open prison. They want to build a society of fear, an empire of fear, whereas the function of the state is not to terrify its citizens but to serve them.

But anti-democratic practices in recent years have transformed Turkey’s society into the world’s most pessimistic and unhappiest society. Our country is being torn apart through polarization and divisions from the inside, it has also been turned into an isolated and disreputable state on the outside.

As citizens living on the most beautiful, richest lands in the world, of course, none of us deserve such bad governance. We deserve neither sadness nor poverty. This is not our inevitable fate, we are not obliged or condemned to this.

Now all together, hand-in-hand we can build the future of a democratic Turkey, a new and happy life.

Now is not the time to be defeated or fearful. We can solve all the problems of our country through peace, solidarity and unity. Without demonizing, marginalizing or hampering any citizen, we will become a unified country.

We will not divide up people on basis of their political party, identity, sect, or gender. Democracy and the rule of law will be made supreme in the state. If the state is our state, if the country is our joint homeland, then it is our duty to create a system of governance that treats everyone in a fair and equal manner.

No one should feel like a stepchild. In order to prevent anyone from experiencing discrimination, we are going to implement policies to embrace all 81 million citizens.                                                                   

We will make the most of our rich lands, seas, historical and cultural heritage. Rather than concrete and unnecessary construction, we will invest in soil, labor, hard work, production and the sciences. And we will surely defeat this poverty. The shame belongs to the government that forces people to live in poverty in a country as prosperous as Turkey.  We will surely save our country from this embarrassment.

We are now preparing for the elections with a more hopeful, more exciting, more enthusiastic beat. I am here within four walls, but I know that thousands of Demirtaş’s are out in fields, on farms, picking hazelnuts. Demirtaş is in the mine, in the factory. He is in class, at the university, on the ground. Demirtaş is on construction sites, on strikes, in protests. He is the fired, he is the unemployed, the poor. He is the youth, the woman and the child. He is Turkish, Kurdish, Circassian, Pomak, Bosnian. He is Alevi, Sunni, but he is still hopeful and vigorous. Demirtaş is halay, govend, horon.

Demirtaş is not the one held in a cell in Edirne; Demirtaş is you. Trust yourself. Honour yourself.  Vote for yourself. Say “One vote for the HDP, one vote for Demirtaş.”

Remember, a vote changes a lot. It changes with you, my beautiful brothers and sisters. Now, it is time to change for better days. Let’s do it together, let’s win together.

I salute all of you with my warmest feelings.

We will absolutely win and we will surely meet in days of freedom. Stay well.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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